Child maltreatment occurs even before birth

It is replicated for generations; it models apathetic adolescents and adults with antisocial and depressive behaviors. April 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Child Abuse.

Child maltreatment occurs even before birth
Abuse of children happens even before birth. Photo: UNAM

From January to July 2021, in Mexico the type of violence most exercised on minors was psychological with 37.8 percent; followed by sexual, 29.6 percent; and physical, 26.3 percent, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography.

The agency clarifies that it does not add up to 100 percent, because several types of aggression can occur in the same individual. In addition, during this period, 1,427 murders of minors were registered; and there were 373,661 births to teenage mothers, of which 8,876 were under 14 years of age.

The World Health Organization reported that in the world as of June 2020, one in five women and one in 13 men reported having suffered sexual abuse during childhood.

Child maltreatment marks life. It shows potential damage to the physical and mental health of those who suffer it, it is a global problem; however, it is possible to prevent it with a multisectoral approach, according to María Teresa Monjarás Rodríguez, an academic at the Faculty of Psychology (FP) of the UNAM.

On April 25, the date on which the International Day for the Fight against Child Abuse is commemorated, the specialist in early childhood and preschool age makes it clear that this stage of life is important in terms of prevention, to avoid the affectation causes loss of confidence and responsibility in minors, even replicating itself for generations, modeling apathetic adolescents and adults with antisocial and depressive behaviors.

"However, abuse is even present before birth, sometimes with sexist comments in cultures where violence is encouraged, where it is said 'if it is a boy: what a pleasure', 'if it is a girl, it is accepted, but good'; violence is present before birth, or even when it is a baby that was not planned or desired, rejection is also implicit", she indicates.

To avoid this, "we have to work with public policies that help us in an integral way, not only psychologists but also other specialists such as doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists, social workers to work together and in an interdisciplinary way," says Monjarás Rodríguez.

Otherwise, she points out, we will have more problems as a society; I think they have manifested themselves, we see them in today's adolescents, where their isolation from technology is present. Likewise, we have to work with parents, mainly to be able to instruct them on what aggression is, what the types are, and how to prevent it.

According to the specialist, "this risk factor was added to the pandemic, and many family members, in desperation, resorted to beatings and cruel behavior. Words are engraved, if we want a healthy, positive, and strengthened infant, we have to emit and show positive messages".

When we analyze the generational chain of an abused child, we corroborate that it is not only about a stage, the phenomenon goes from generation to generation, that is why it is important to work with children from a systemic approach, with relatives, uncles, grandparents, to eradicate that cultural heritage that learned to educate with screams and blows, emphasizes Monjarás Rodríguez.